6 Best Fast-Food Salads in America in 2021
No one would fault you for holding an unfavorable opinion of most fast-food salads. For example, many of the salads recently pulled from the McDonald's menu contained more calories and fat than a Big Mac, according to CNBC. And that's saying something, as a Big Mac packs in an average of 550 calories and 30 grams of fat, based on McDonald's own nutrition data.
The good news is that there are many healthy fast-food salad options out there, and to help you learn what to look for and what specifics to consider, we spoke to Kristen Carli, registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Camelback Nutrition & Wellness in Phoenix, Ariz.
"To have a healthy but also a filling salad, you'll want to make sure you load up on toppings," Carli told Eat This. "This means no simple green salads with only tomatoes. You are going to need some more substance. Think beans and legumes for protein; fruits; veggies; nuts; seeds; and so on."
To help you find such options, we've compiled a list of seven fast-food salads that are nutritionist-approved and tasty, too.
For more, check out The #1 Healthiest Order at McDonald's, According to a Nutritionist.
Quiznos' Apple Harvest Salad
"The more veggies and fruits you add, the more nutrients you consume," Carli says. And this salad from Quiznos not only features fruit but, beyond the lettuce, it has tomatoes and cucumbers, along with pumpkin seeds, which are oily and filled with beneficial vitamins and minerals, hence they're good for the heart, the prostate, and the bladder.
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Arby's Roast Chicken Entrée Salad
This salad is pretty impressive when it comes to nutrition facts. At just 250 calories, the green entrée has a hearty 25 grams of protein, just 14 grams of fat, and a mere 4 grams of sugar. The sodium is a bit high at 690 milligrams, which is nearly half of the 1,500 daily milligram limit experts recommend, but compared to other fast-food options, it's actually not bad.
Chipotle's DIY Salads
"Chipotle salads are great because they allow you to customize and add as many toppings as you would like," Carli says. "I would recommend adding beans, fajita veggies, guacamole, and the corn salsa to get in a variety of nutrients." Order it over a large bed of lettuce or some brown rice, and with a light dressing, to make a truly filling yet still nutritious meal in a bowl.
Qdoba's Citrus Lime Chicken Salad
The Citrus Lime Chicken Salad from Qdoba is a great option as each of its individual ingredients are quite healthy. "This salad is loaded with ingredients that will add to your health rather than push you further from your health goals," nutritionist Lisa Richards told TODAY. "The creators went as far as to make it with seasoned grilled chicken rather than fat-filled fried chicken and romaine lettuce, which is full of vitamins, over iceberg lettuce".
slidetitle num="2"]Panera's Strawberry Poppyseed & Chicken Salad[/slidetitle]
The Panera Strawberry Poppyseed and Chicken salad is also a great option, says Carli. "This one is packed with a variety of fruits as well as protein." And unlike many other salads from fast-food and fast-casual restaurants, this salad does not have lots of starchy ingredients added, and it only has an average of 340 calories.
slidetitle num="1"]Chick-fil-A's Grilled Market Salad[/slidetitle]
"The Chick-fil-A Grilled Market Salad is exactly what I am looking for," Carli says. "[It has] plenty of fruits like apples, blueberries, and strawberries, protein, nuts, and a light balsamic dressing." Depending on the variety of the salad you choose—and there are many—you can get a meal with between 500 and 550 calories and a hearty 28 grams of protein, plus a lot of great vitamins and minerals to keep you fueled.
For more, check out the 108 Most Popular Sodas Ranked By How Toxic They Are.